Campus news in brief

Valene Mezmin Feb 26, 2017

Carnegie Mellon Chemistry professor Yisong Guo receives CAREER award to study NHM-Fe

Yisong Guo, an assistant professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, recently received a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. This award comes with a five-year grant which will allow Guo to study non-heme mononuclear iron-containing (NHM-Fe) enzymes. These newly discovered enzymes play a role in many processes which impact health and aging.

The NHM-Fe enzymes catalyze key steps in the biosynthesis of two secondary metabolites that are beneficial to human health. One enzyme, FtmOx1, produces a toxic chemical called verriculogen. Verriculogen contains a unique functional group, endoperoxide, that displays a wide spectrum of abilities to combat bacteria and cancer.

The other enzymes, OvoA and EgtB, are involved in the biosynthesis of ovothiol and ergothioneine, molecules with possible antioxidant and anti-aging properties. The grant will allow Guo to uncover the chemical principles that govern the function of all three enzymes and the production of their secondary metabolites.

“Mastering the unique biological transformations demonstrated by these enzymes could further lead to the discovery of new bioactive molecules that offer profound implications for human health,” Guo said in a university press release.

The grant will also allow Guo to provide training opportunities for students in physical chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, biochemistry, enzymology, and catalysis.

Carnegie Mellon researchers make new discovery regarding synthetic nanoparticles

Chemists at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered that synthetic nanoparticles can be as structurally complex and accurate as biomolecules. This discovery has aided researchers in learning how nanoparticles form, which can then help them to eventually construct them. This can lead to the creation of new computer chips, materials, and drugs.

This discovery came from the lab of Carnegie Mellon chemistry professor Rongchao Jin. Jin has been attempting to create precise gold nanoparticles for years. He first established the structure of an ultra-small Au25 nanocluster and has worked on progressively larger ones.

“Most people think that nanoparticles are simple things, because they are so small. But when we look at nanoparticles at the atomic level, we found that they are full of wonders,” Jin said in a university press release.

The researchers, led by graduate student Chenjie Zeng, established the structure of Au246, one of the largest and most complex nanoparticles created by scientists to date and the largest gold nanoparticle to have its structure determined by X-ray crystallography.

The researchers also found that Au246 particles maximize the interactions between atoms and match symmetric surface patterns as they form. Similar to puzzle pieces coming together, matching shows that the components of the particle can recognize each other by their patterns and spontaneously assemble into the highly ordered structure of a nanoparticle.

In future studies, Jin hopes to push the crystallization limits of nanoparticles even farther to larger and larger particles. He also plans to explore the particles’ electronic and catalytic power.